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Insect-Musicians and Cricket 
Champions of China 


Curator op Anthropology 

12 Plates in Photogravure 

Leaflet 22 




The Anthropological Leaflets of Field Museum are designed to 
give brief, non-technical accounts of some of the more interesting 
beliefs, habits and customs of the races whose life is illustrated 
in the Museum's exhibits. 


1. The Chinese Gateway $ .10 

2. The Philippine Forge Group 10 

3. The Japanese Collections 25 

4. New Guinea Masks 25 

5. The Thunder Ceremony of the Pawnee 25 

6. The Sacrifice to the Morning Star by the 

Skidi Pawnee 10 

7. Purification of the Sacred Bundles, a Ceremony 

of the Pawnee 10 

8. Annual Ceremony of the Pawnee Medicine Men . .10 

9. The Use of Sago in New Guinea 10 

10. Use of Human Skulls and Bones in Tibet 10 

11. The Japanese New Year's Festival, Games 

and Pastimes 25 

12. Japanese Costume 25 

13. Gods and Heroes of Japan 25 

14. Japanese Temples and Houses 25 

15. Use of Tobacco among North American Indians . .25 

16. Use of Tobacco in Mexico and South America . . .25 

17. Use of Tobacco in New Guinea 10 

18. Tobacco and Its Use in Asia 25 

19. Introduction of Tobacco into Europe 25 

20. The Japanese Sword and Its Decoration 25 

21. Ivory in China , 75 

22. Insect-Musicians and Cricket Champions of China . .50 

23. Ostrich Egg-shell Cups of Mesopotamia and the 

Ostrich in Ancient and Modem Times ... .50 

24. The Indian Tribes of the Chicago Region with 

Special Reference to the Illinois and the 
Potawatomi 25 

25. Civilization of the Mayas 75 

26. Early History of Man 25 

D. C. DAVIES, Director 






Scene from Chinese Paintinj? of the Twelfth Century in Field Museum. 

Field Museum op Natural History 

CBMUUIO, 1907 

iMAWtMt Nomottt 

Insect-Musicians and Cricket Champions 
of China 

Of the many insects that are capable of produc- 
ing sound in various ways, the best known and the 
most expert musicians are the crickets, who during 
the latter part of summer and in the autumn fill the 
air with a continuous concert. They are well known 
on account of their abundance, their wide distribu- 
tion, their characteristic chirping song and the habit 
many of them have for seeking shelter in human habi- 

Crickets belong, in the entomological system, to 
the order Orthoptera (from the Greek orthoa, 
"straight," and pteron, "a wing"; referring to the 
longitudinal folding of the hind wings). In this order 
the two pairs of wings differ in structure. The fore 
wings are parchment-like, forming covers for the more 
delicate hind wings. The wing-covers have received 
the special name tegmina; they are furnished with a 
fine network of veins, and overlap at the tip at least. 
There are many species in which the wings are rudi- 
mentary, even in the adult state. The order Orthop- 
tera includes six families, — the roaches, mantids, 
walking-sticks, locusts or short-horned grasshoppers, 
the long-horned grasshoppers including the katydids, 
and the crickets (Gryllidae). Of crickets there are 
three distinct groups, — known as mole-crickets, true 
crickets, and tree-crickets. The first-named are so 
called because they burrow in the ground like moles; 

2 Field Museum op Natural History 

they are pre-eminently burrowers. The form of the 
body is suited to this mode of life. The front tibiae, 
especially, are fitted for digging; they are gi'eatly 
broadened, and shaped somewhat like hands or the 
feet of a mole. The mole-crickets feed upon the tender 
roots of various plants. The true crickets are com- 
mon everywhere, living in fields, and some species 
even in our houses. They usually live on plants, but 
are not strictly vegetarians; sometimes they are pre- 
daceous and feed mercilessly upon other insects. The 
eggs are laid in the autumn, usually in the ground, 
and are hatched in the following summer. The greater 
number of the old insects die on the approach of 
winter; a few, however, survive the cold season. The 
tree-crickets principally inhabit trees, but they occur 
also on shrubs, or even on high herbs and tall grass. 

Like their near relatives, crickets have biting 
mouth parts, and, like the grasshoppers and katydids, 
rather long hind legs which render them fit for jump- 
ing. Although many of them have wings when full 
grown, they move about mainly by jumping or hopping. 
When the young cricket emerges from the egg, it 
strongly resembles the adult, but it lacks wings and 
wing-covers, which gradually appear as the insect 
grows older and larger. The final development of 
wings and wing-covers furnishes the means whereby 
the male cricket can produce his familiar chirping 
sound. It is only the adult male that sings ; the young 
and the females cannot chirp. 

On examining the base of the fore wings or wing- 
covers of the male cricket, it will be noticed that the 
veins at the base are fewer, thicker, and more irregu- 
lar than those on the hind or lower wings. On the 
under side of some of these thick veins will also be 
seen fine, transverse ridges like those on a file. The 
tving-covers of the female have uniform, parallel veins, 
without a trace of ridges. The male cricket produces 



CRICKETS OF CHINA («. male: b. femal*). 
1. B««prinkled Cricket. GryUua eot u p«rius Schaum. 2. Mitred Cricket, Gn/Uua mitratua 
Burmeiater. Chinese ai-eo or U'u-chi, Peking Colloquial eh'ii-ch'u. 3. Broad- 
faced Cricket, LowobUmmus taieoun Sausaure. Chineae pang-t'ou 
("Watchman'a Rattle"). 

Natural History of Crickets 8 

his chirping sound by raising his wing-covers above 
his body and then rubbing their bases together, so that 
the file-like veins of the under surface of the one 
wing-cover scrape the upper surface of the lower. 

Only the wings of the male cricket have sound- 
producing attachments, and the males have them only 
when their wings are fully developed at the age of 
maturity. The young cricket has no wings. 

Since crickets produce a characteristic sound, it is 
natural to suppose that both males and females are 
able to hear it. On the lower part of the fore legs 
of both sexes is found a little drum-like surface, which 
serves as the tympanum of an ear. The sound-produc- 
ing organ and the ear of the katydids, which rank 
next to the crickets in their singing ability, are some- 
what similar in structure and location. 

The sound made by crickets is, of course, not a 
true song, but a mechanical production, as are all of 
the sounds produced by insects. The object of the 
chirping or stridulating is somewhat conjectural. It 
may be a love-song, mating-call, or an expression of 
some other emotion. The fact that the crickets are 
able to sing only when they are full grown and capable 
of mating would seem to suggest that their chirping 
is a love-song. 

This commonly held view, however, is contested 
by Frank E. Lutz in a recent article on "Insect 
Sounds" published in Natural History (1926, No. 2). 
Dr. Lutz starts from the opinion that not everything 
in nature has a practical or utilitarian purpose and 
that many striking characters and characteristics of 
animals and plants are of no use to their possessors 
or to any other creature ; they seem to him to be much 
like the figures in a kaleidoscope, definite and doubtless 
due to some internal mechanism, but not serving any 
special purpose. This highly trained entomologist 
then proceeds to observe, "The most familiar example 

4 Field Museum of Natural History 

of insect sounds made by friction is the chirping of 
crickets. Now, only the males do this. Chirping is 
distinctly a secondary sexual character, the stock 
explanation of which is that it is a mating-call de- 
veloped by sexual selection. The adult life of a male 
cricket lasts a month or so, and he chirps most of the 
time, but he spends little of that time in mating. Why 
does he chirp when there is no female around? Pos- 
sibly hoping that one will come ; I do not know. When 
he has mated, his sexual life is done, but he keeps on 
chirping to his dying day. I do not know why; pos- 
sibly to pass the time. I do not know this, however, 
and my knowledge is based on the breeding of literally 
thousands of crickets, while I was using them in a 
study of heredity: a female cricket pays but little 
attention to a chirping male. She may wave her an- 
tennae in his direction, but so will she when he is not 
chirping, and so will she at a stick or a stone." And 
the general conclusion Lutz arrives at is, "The sig- 
nificance of insect sounds is still an open subject and, 
while it is altogether probable that some of these 
sounds do have a biological significance, I firmly be- 
lieve that many of them have none, being merely inci- 
dental to actions that are not intended to make a noise 
and to structures that have arisen for some totally 
different purpose or for no purpose at all." 

The Chinese, perhaps, have made a not uninter- 
esting contribution to this problem. Of the many spe- 
cies of crickets used by them, the females are kept 
only of one, — the black tree-cricket (Homoeogryllns 
japonicus: Plate III, Fig. 2), called by them kin chung 
("Golden Bell," with reference to its sounds), as they 
assert that this is the only kind of cricket that requires 
the presence of the female to sing. The females of all 
other species are not kept by the Chinese. As soon 
as the insects are old enough that their sex can be 
determined, the females are fed to birds or sold to 





CRICKETS OF CHINA (a. male: b. female). 

1. Yellowiah Tree Cricket. Otennthtu rufytetna Servillc. ChineM kwo-lou. Peking Colloquial 

kwo-ktvo. 2. Black Tree Cricket. HomoeoaryUu* japonictu Haan. Chineae kin ckung 

("Golden Bell"). 3. Infuacatwl Shield-backed Katydid. GamptocUu gratiomt 

itsfiueata Uvarov. Pekinc-Chinaae in^hu4u. 

Musical Abiuty of Crickets 6 

bird-fanciers. Accordingly, the males of all species 
kept in captivity by the Chinese, with a single excep- 
tion, sing without the presence of the female. But 
whether captive insects are instructive examples for 
the study of the origin and motives of their chirps 
is another question. Our canaries and other birds in 
confinement likewise sing without females. What- 
ever the biological origin of insect sounds may be 
(and it is not necessary to assume that the sounds of 
all species must have sprung from the same causes), 
it seems reasonable to infer that the endless repetition 
of such sounds has the tendency to develop into a 
purely mechanical practice in which the insect in- 
dulges as a pastime for its own diversion. It is con- 
ceivable that insect music has little or nothing to do 
with the sex impulse, but that it is rather prompted 
by the instinct to play which is immanent in all ani- 

The relation of the Chinese to crickets and other 
insects presents one of their most striking charac- 
teristics and one of the most curious chapters of cul- 
ture-historical development. In the primitive stages 
of life man took a keen interest in the animal world, 
and first of all, he closely observed and studied large 
mammals, and next to these, birds and fishes. A 
curious exception to this almost universal rule is pre- 
sented by the ancient Chinese. In accordance with 
their training and the peculiar direction in which their 
imaginative and observational powers were led, ttiey 
were more interested in the class of insects than in 
all other groups of animals combined ; while mammals, 
least of all, attracted their attention. Their love of 
insects led them to observations and discoveries which 
still elicit our admiration. The curious life-history 
of the cicada was known to them in early times, and 
only a nation which had an innate sympathy with the 
smallest creatures of nature was able to penetrate 

6 Field Museum of Natural History 

into the mysterious habits of the silkworm and pre- 
sent the world with the discovery of silk. The cicada 
as an emblem of resurrection, the praying-mantis as 
a symbol of bravery, and many other insects play a 
prominent role in early religious and poetical concep- 
tions as well as in art, as shown by their effigies in 

In regard to mammals, birds, and fishes, Chinese 
terminology does not rise above the ordinary, but 
their nomenclature of insects is richer and more color- 
ful than that of most languages. Not only do they 
have a distinct word or even several terms for every 
species found in their country, but also numerous 
poetic and local names for the many varieties of each 
species for which words are lacking in English and 
other tongues. 

Corresponding to their fondness for crickets, the 
Chinese have developed a special literature on the sub- 
ject. The first of these works is the Tsu chi king 
("Book of Crickets") written by Kia Se-tao, a min- 
ister of state, who lived in the first part of the thir- 
teenth century, under the Sung djoiasty. His book, 
continued and provided with additional matter by 
Chou Li-tsing of the Ming period, is still in existence, 
and has remained the most important and authorita- 
tive treatise on the subject, which has been freely 
drawn upon by all subsequent writers. The author, a 
passionate cricket fancier himself, gives minute de- 
scriptions and subtle classifications of all species and 
varieties of crickets known to him and dwells at length 
on their treatment and care. Under the title Tsu chi 
chi ("Records of Crickets") a similar booklet was pro- 
duced by Liu Tung under the Ming dynasty. During 
the Manchu period, Fang Hii wrote a Tsu chi p'u 
("Treatise on Crickets"), and Ch'en Hao-tse, in his 
Hua king ("Mirror of Flowers") written in 1688, of- 
fers several interesting sections on crickets. 




The Winter Habiutions of the Inaects. 

1-2. Coven of ivory carved in open worlc. 3. Cover of carved coconut-ahell. 4. Cover of 

•andalwood decorated with ei^ht auspicious Buddhiatic etnblema. 

Chinese Lore of Crickets 7 

In their relations to crickets the Chinese have 
passed through three distinct periods : during the first 
period running from the times of early antiquity down 
to the T'ang dynasty, they merely appreciated the 
cricket's powerful tunes; under the T'ang (A.D. 618- 
906) they began to keep crickets as interned prisoners 
in cages to be able to enjoy their concert at any time; 
finally, under the Sung (a.d. 960-1278) they developed 
the sport of cricket-fights and a regular cult of the 

The praise of the cricket is sung in the odes of the 
Shi king, the earliest collection of Chinese popular 
songs. People then enjoyed listening to its chirping 
sounds, while it moved about in their houses or under 
their beds. It was regarded as a creature of good omen, 
and wealth was predicted for the families which had 
many crickets on their hearths. When their voices 
were heard in the autumn, it was a signal for the 
weavers to commence their work. 

The sounds produced by the mitred cricket 
(Grylliis mitratus: Plate II, Fig. 2) recall to the Chi- 
nese the click of a weaver's shuttle. One of its names 
therefore is tstc-chi, which means literally "one who 
stimulates spinning." "Chicken of the weaver's 
shuttle" is a term of endearment for it. 

One of the songs in the Shi king consists of three 
stanzas each of which begins, "The cricket is in the 
hall." The time intended is the ninth month when the 
year entered on its last quarter. In another song of 
the same collection it is said, "The se chung [a kind of 
cricket] moves its legs ; in the sixth month, the spinner 
[another species of cricket] sounds its wings; in the 
seventh month it is in the wilderness; in the eighth 
month it is under the eaves; in the ninth month it is 
around the doors ; in the tenth month the cricket enters 
under our beds." 

8 Field Museum op Natural History 

At this point the Chinese are not distinguished 
from other nations. Our word "cricket" is imitative 
of the sound of the insect (literally, "little creaker," 
derived from French criquer, "to creak"). In old Eng- 
land it was considered a sign of good fortune to have 
a cricket chirping by the hearth, and to kill one of 
these harmless little creatures was looked upon as a 
breach of hospitality. Their cheerful tunes suggested 
peace and comfort, the coziness of the homely fireside. 
They were harbingers of good luck and joy. Gower, in 
his Pericles, offers the verse : — 

And crickets sing at the oven's mouth, 
E'er the blither for their drouth. 

Ben Jonson (Bartholomew Fair) alludes to the 

insect's tunes thus: "Walk as if thou hadst borrowed 

legs of a spinner and voice of a cricket." Shakespeare 

has several references to this lover of the fireside whose 

note is so suggestive of cozy comfort. Milton {II Pense- 

roso, 81) has the line: — 

Far from all resort of mirth 
Save the cricket on the hearth. 

On the other hand, the tunes of the hidden melodist 
were regarded by many persons with superstition and 
awe, and were believed to be an omen of sorrow and 
evil ; its voice even predicted the death of a member of 
the family (see J. Brand, Observations on the Popular 
Antiquities of Great Britain, 1888, Vol. Ill, p. 189). 

No one, however, has depicted the cricket's chirp- 
ing with more poetic insight and charm than Charles 
Dickens in his immortal story The Cricket on the 
Hearth, in describing the competition between the 
cricket and the boiling kettle. 

"And here, if you like, the Cricket did chime in! 
with a Chirrup, Chirrup, Chirrup of such magnitude, 
by way of chorus; with a voice, so astoundingly dis- 
proportionate to its size, as compared with the Kettle ; 
(size! you couldn't see it!) that if it had then and 

Engush Lore of Crickets 9 

there burst itself like an overcharged gun, if it had 
fallen a victim on the spot, and chirruped its little body 
into fifty pieces, it would have seemed a natural and 
inevitable consequence, for which it had expressly la- 

"The Kettle had had the last of its solo perform- 
ance. It persevered with undiminished ardour ; but the 
Cricket took first fiddle and kept it. Good Heaven, how 
it chirped! Its shrill, sharp, piercing voice resounded 
through the house, and seemed to twinkle in the outer 
darkness like a Star. There was an indescribable little 
trill and tremble in it, at its loudest, which suggested 
its being carried off its legs, and made to leap again, 
by its own intense enthusiasm. Yet they went very 
well together, the Cricket and the Kettle. The burden 
of the song was still the same; and louder, louder, 
louder still, they sang it in their emulation. 

"The cricket now began to chirp again, vehemently. 

" 'Heyday !' said John, in his slow way. 'It's mer- 
rier than ever, to-night, I think.' 

" 'And it's sure to bring us good fortune, John ! 
It always has done so. To have a Cricket on the Hearth, 
is the luckiest thing in all the world !' 

"John looked at her as if he had very nearly got 
the thought into his head, that she was his Cricket in 
chief, and he quite agreed with her. But it was prob- 
ably one of his narrow escapes, for he said nothing. 

" 'The first time I heard its cheerful little note, 
John, was on that night when you brought me home — 
when you brought me to my new home here ; its little 
mistress. Nearly a year ago. You recollect, John?' 

" 'Oh yes,' John remembered. *I should think so !' 

" 'Its chirp was such a welcome to me ! It seemed 
so full of promise and encouragement. It seemed to 
say, you would be kind and gentle with me, and would 
not expect (I had a fear of that, John, then) to find an 
old head on the shoulders of your foolish little wife.' 

10 Field Museum of Natural History 

" .... 'It spoke the truth, John, when it seemed 
to say so ; for you have ever been, I am sure, the best, 
the most considerate, the most affectionate of husbands 
to me. This has been a happy home, John ; and I love 
the Cricket for its sake !'.... 

" *I love it for the many times I have heard it, and 
the many thoughts its harmless music has given me'." 

The Chinese book T'ien pao i shi ("Affairs of the 
Period T'ien-pao," a.d. 742-756) contains the following 
notice : — 

"Whenever the autumnal season arrives, the ladies 
of the palace catch crickets in small golden cages. These 
with the cricket enclosed in them they place near their 
pillows, and during the night hearken to the voices of 
the insects. This custom was imitated by all people." 

As it happened in China so frequently, a certain 
custom first originated in the palace, became fashion- 
able, and then gradually spread among all classes of 
the populace. The women enshrined in the imperial 
seraglio evidently found solace and diversion in the 
company of crickets during their lonesome nights. In- 
stead of golden cages, the people availed themselves of 
small bamboo or wooden cages which they carried in 
their bosom or suspended from their girdles. 

The Museum owns a valuable painting in the form 
of a long roll depicting the games and pastimes of a 
hundred boys and attributed to Su Han-ch*en, a re- 
nowned artist of the twelfth century : one of the scenes 
shows six boys surrounded by cricket jars, one of them 
holding a tickler and letting a cricket out of a trap-box 
into a jar (see Plate I). 

In Plates II and III the principal species of crickets 
kept by the Chinese in Peking are illustrated from 
actual specimens obtained, which will be found on ex- 
hibition in the case illustrating the cricket cult (West 
Gallery, second floor). The scientific identifications 



8 4 


1. Cover of ivory. 2. Cover of white jade. 3. With moulded deeisrw of drasons. 4. Coeted 

with carved red lacquer in two layer*. Cover of ivory with carvins of three 

lions playinff ball. 

Various Species of Crickets Kept by the Chinese 11 

were kindly made by Dr. James A. G. Rehn of the 
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Most of 
the grenera belong to the family Gryllidae, only two to 
the family Tettigoniidae : Gampsocleis inflata Uvarov 
and G. gratiosa, subspecies infuscata Uvarov, the latter 
illustrated in Plate III, Fig. 3. The besprinkled cricket 
(GryUiis conspersus Schaum, Chinese si-so) , figured in 
Plate II, Fig. 1, is common all over China, and is also 
known from the Ludiu Islands, Hawaii, and the East 
Indies. The mitred cricket {Gryllus mitratus Burmeis- 
ter) in Plate II, Fig. 2, is known from most countries 
of Eastern Asia, particularly China, Korea, Japan, 
Tonking, and the Malay Archipelago. The broad-faced 
cricket (Loxoblemmns taicoun Saussure) in Plate II, 
Fig. 3, has also been described from Japan and Java. 

The yellowish tree-cricket (Oecanthtis rufescens 
Serville: Plate III, Fig. 1) is a favorite with the peo- 
ple of both Peking and Shanghai ; it occurs also in the 
East Indies, but is quite distinct from O. longicauda 
Matsumura of Japan. The black tree-cricket {Homoeo- 
gryllus japonicus Haan: Plate III, Fig. 2), the "Golden 
Bell" (kin chung) of the Chinese because its sound is 
compared with that of a bell, is very popular in Peking ; 
it is also known from Japan, Java, and northern India. 
It is evident that the large, glossy black insect in Plate 
III, Fig. 3, is quite different from the crickets and, as 
mentioned, is placed by us in a separate family. The 
Chinese also distinguish it from the cricket and bestow 
on it the peculiar name yu-hv^lu which is imitative of 
its sound ; this word belongs to the colloquial language, 
there is no literary name for this insect. 

As to color, green, black, yellow, and purple 
crickets are distinguished by the Chinese, the green 
and black ones taking the first rank. 

The notes of the Golden Bell are described as being 
like the tinkling of a small bell, and its stridulation is 
characterized with the words teng ling ling. The Japa- 

12 Field Museum op Natural History 

nese designate this species "bell-insect" (suzumushi). 
Lafcadio Hearn, who in his essay "Insect-Musicians'* 
describes the various kinds of crickets favored by the 
Japanese, says that the bell of which the sound is thus 
referred to is a very small bell, or a bunch of little bells, 
such as a Shinto priestess uses in the sacred dances. 
He writes, further, that this species is a great favorite 
with insect-fanciers in Japan, and is bred in great num- 
bers for the market. In the wild state it is found in 
many parts of Japan. The Japanese compare it with a 
watermelon seed, as it is very small, has a black back, 
and a white or yellowish belly. This insect, according 
to the Chinese, stridulates only at night and stops at 
dawn ; the concert produced by a chorus causes a deaf- 
ening din which is characterized by Hearn as a sound 
like rapids, and by a Chinese author as the sound of 
drums and trumpets. 

Chinese authors know correctly that the "voices" 
of crickets, as they say, are produced by the motion of 
their wings. The stridulatory sounds are described by 
them as tsa-tsa or tsat-tsat, also as tsi-tsi. The term 
kwo-kwo for the yellowish tree-cricket (Plate III, 
Fig. 1) also is onomatopoetic. Terms of endearment 
for a cricket are "horse of the hearth, chick of the 
hearth, chick of the god of the hearth." 

There are various methods of catching crickets. 
They are usually captured at evening. In the north of 
China a lighted candle is placed near the entrance of 
their hole, and a trap box is held in readiness. At- 
tracted by the light, the insects hop out of their re- 
treats, and are finally caught in the traps made of 
bamboo or ivory rods. Some of these ivory traps are 
veritable works of art: they are surmounted by 
carvings of dragons, and the trap doors shut very ac- 
curately (Plate XII, Figs. 1-2). The doors are shown 
open in the illustration. 




For incitins cricketa to sintr or fiirht. In Peking they are made from rat or hare whiskers 

inserted in a reed, bone, or ivory handle. On the riifht an ivory tube, with 

cover aurmounted by the figure of a lion, for keeping ticklers. 

Methods of Capturing Crickets 18 

The trap shown in Fig. 4 of the same Plate is an 
oblong, rectangular wooden box, as used in central 
China; the trap door at the end of the box is a plain 
wooden slip fitting into a groove, which may be lifted 
and lowered in a few seconds. 

In the south, men avail themselves of what is called 
a fire-basket (fo lam) which is made of iron rods and 
in which a charcoal fire is kept burning. This fire 
drives the insects out of their dens. Sometimes the 
cricket-hunters reach their object by pouring water 
into the holes where the insects hide. Sometimes they 
endeavor to entice them from the nest by placing at its 
entrance the fruit of Nephelium longana (lung yen, 
"dragon's eyes"). 

In Shanghai and Hangchow grasshoppers are also 
held captives and enclosed in wooden cages, usually 
of the shape of a chair, stool, or table (Plate XI). 

Cicadas were formerly also kept in small cages 
which were suspended at the eaves of houses or from 
the branches of trees, but this custom is no longer prac- 
tised. The cicada is at present not offered for sale in 
the markets like the cricket. It may occasionally be 
caught by boys and caged by them for their amuse- 
ment temporarily, but otherwise interest in this insect 
has waned. The same holds good for Japan, where 
cicadas are never caged. Japanese poets, as Lafcadio 
Hearn observes, are much more inclined to praise the 
voices of night-crickets than those of cicadas ; there are 
countless poems about the latter, but very few which 
commend their singing. 

Many people rear hundreds of crickets in their 
homes, and have several rooms stacked with the jars 
which shelter the insects. The rich employ experts to 
look after theirs. As soon as you enter a house like this, 
you are greeted by a deafening noise which a Chinese 
is able to stand for any length of time. 

14 Field Museum op Natural History 

During the summer the insects are kept in circular 
pottery jars made of a common burnt clay and covered 
with a flat lid, which is sometimes perforated. Many 
potters made a special business of these cricket houses, 
and impressed on them a seal with their names ; for in- 
stance, Chao Tse-yii, who lived in the first part of the 
nineteenth century and whose productions still enjoy a 
special reputation. There are old pots said to go back 
as far as the Ming dynasty (1368-1643), and these are 
highly prized. The crickets keep cool in these jars, 
which are often shaped in the form of a gourd, as the 
heat does not penetrate the thick clay walls. Tiny por- 
celain dishes decorated in blue and white or small bits 
of clay contain food and water for the insects, and they 
are also provided with beds or sleeping boxes of clay 
(Plates VIII and IX). Jars of somewhat larger size 
serve for holding the cricket-fights. 

During the winter months the crickets change 
their home, and are transferred to specially prepared 
gourds which are provided with loose covers wrought 
in open work so as to admit fresh air into the gourd. 
This is said to be a special variety of the common 
gourd (Lagenaria vvlgaris), the cultivation of which 
was known to a single family of Peking. A Chinese 
model of the plant, — ^the flowers of jade, the gourds of 
turquois, — is placed on exhibition; likewise gourds in 
their natural shapes and others in the process of being 
worked. The gourds used as cricket habitations are all 
artificially shaped ; they are raised in earthen moulds, 
the flowers are forced into the moulds, and as they 
grow will assume the shape of and the designs 
fashioned in the moulds. There is accordingly an in- 
finite variety of forms : there are slender and graceful, 
round and double, cylindrical and jar-like ones. Those 
formerly made for the Palace, of which the Museum 
possesses a number, are decorated with figures and 
scenes in high relief fashioned in the clay mould. The 

How Crickets are Kept and Fed 16 

technique employed in these ancient pieces is now lost; 
at least they are no longer made, though there are poor 
modern imitations in which the surfaces are carved, 
not moulded. 

The covers of the gourd, flat or tall, are made of 
jade, elephant or walrus ivory, coconut shell, and san- 
dalwood, all elaborately decorated, partly in high relief, 
partly in open work, or in the two methods combined, 
with floral designs, dragons, lions and other animals. 
Gourd vines with flowers and fruits belong to the most 
favorite designs carved in the flat ivory covers ; gourd 
and cricket appear to be inseparable companions. A 
kind of cement which is a mixture of lime and sandy 
loam is smeared over the bottom of the gourd to pro- 
vide a comfortable resting-place for the tenant. The 
owner of the cricket may carry the gourd in his bosom 
wherever he goes, and in passing men in the street you 
may hear the shrill sound of the insect from its warm 
and safe place of refuge. The gourds keep the insects 
warm, and on a cold night they receive a cotton pad- 
ding to sleep upon. 

Plain gourds are illustrated in Plates IV and V, 
Figs. 1-2 ; decorated ones, in Plates V, Figs. 3-4, and X. 

In the sunmier the insects are generally fed on 
fresh cucumber, lettuce, and other greens. During their 
confinement in autumn and winter masticated chest- 
nuts and yellow beans are given them. In the south 
they are also fed on chopped fish and various kinds of 
insects, and even receive honey as a tonic. It is quite 
a common sight to see the idlers congregated in the 
tea-houses and laying their crickets out on the tables. 
Their masters wash the gourds with hot tea and chew 
chestnuts and beans to feed them. Then they listen to 
their songs and boast of their grinding powers. The 
Chinese cricket books give many elaborate rules for 
proper feeding which vary with the different species 
and with every month. The Golden Bell, for instance, 

16 Field Museum op Natural History 

should be fed on wormwood (or southern-wood, ts'ing 
hao, Artemisia apiacea), while flowers of the "silk 
melon" (Luffa cylindrica) and melon pulp are pre- 
scribed for the Spinning Damsel. 

The fighting crickets receive particular attention 
and nourishment, a dish consisting of a bit of rice 
mixed with fresh cucumbers, boiled chestnuts, lotus 
seeds, and mosquitoes. When the time for the fight 
draws near, they get a tonic in the form of a bouillon 
made from the root of a certain flower. Some fanciers 
allow themselves to be stung by mosquitoes, and when 
these are full of blood, they are given their favorite 
pupils. In order to stir their ferocity prior to a bout, 
they are sometimes also compelled to fast. As soon as 
they recognize from their slow movements that they 
are sick, they are fed on small red insects gathered in 

A tickler is used for stirring the crickets to incite 
them to sing (Plate VI). In Peking fine hair from 
hare or rat whiskers inserted in a reed or bone handle 
is utilized for this purpose ; in Shanghai, a fine blade of 
crab or finger grass (Panicwn syntherisma) . The 
ticklers are kept in bamboo or wooden tubes, and the 
rich indulge in the luxury of having an elegant ivory 
tube surmounted by the carving of a lion (Plate VI). 
A special brush serves for cleaning the gourds and jars 
(Plate XII, Fig. 6) ; and a pair of wooden nippers or 
tongs is used for handling the food and water dishes 
(Plate XII, Fig. 5) . The insect is held under a wire 
screen, while its gourd is being cleaned or washed 
(Plate XII, Fig. 7). A hair net enclosed in a hoop is 
placed over the jar to watch the doings of the insects 
(Plate VIII, in upper right corner). 

The tympanum of good singers is coated with a 
bit of wax to increase or strengthen the volume of 
sound. A small needle about three inches long with 
blunt end, about the size of a darning needle, is heated 











Jf K 

? "5 

Fighting Crickets 17 

over a candle and lightly dipped in the wax. The in- 
sect is held between the thumb and forefinger of the 
closed hand, and the wax is applied to the wing-covers. 
Specimens of the wax are shown in the case of cricket 

Crickets are imbued with the natural instinct to 
fight. The Chinese offer the following explanation for 
this fact: the crickets live in holes, and each hole is 
inhabited by a single individual ; this manner of living 
gives rise to frictions and frequent combats, for the 
insects always prefer their old places of refuge, and 
when they encounter in them another inmate, they will 
not cede their rights voluntarily, but will at once start 
to fight over the housing problem. The two rivals will 
jump at each other's heads with furious bites, and the 
combat will usually end in the death of one of the 
fighters. It frequently happens that the victor devours 
the body of his adversary, just as primitive man did 
away with the body of his enemy whom he had slain 
in mortal strife. When driven by hunger, crickets will 
feed upon other insects and even devour their own 
relations. When several are confined in a cage, they do 
not hesitate to eat one another. War and death is a 
law of nature. 

In the course of many generations, the Chinese 
through long experience and practice, have accom- 
plished what we may call a natural selection of fighting 
crickets. The good fighters are believed to be incarna- 
tions of great heroes of the past, and are treated in 
every respect like soldiers. Kia Se-tao, the first author 
who wrote on the subject, says that "rearing crickets 
is like rearing soldiers." The strongest and bravest of 
these who are most appreciated at Peking and Tientsin 
come from the southern province of Kwang-tung. These 
fighters are dubbed "generals" or "marshals," and 

18 Field Museum op Natural History 

seven varieties of them are distinguished, each with a 
special name. 

Those with black heads and gray hair in their 
bodies are considered best. Next in appreciation come 
those with yellow heads and gray hair, then those with 
white heads and gray hair, then those with golden 
wings covered with red hair, those of yellow color with 
blood-red hair who are said to have two tails in form 
of sheep's horns, finally those yellow in color with 
pointed head and long abdomen and those supposed to 
be dressed in embroidered silk, gray in color and cov- 
ered with red spots like fish-scales. The good fighters, 
according to Chinese experts, are recognized by their 
loud chirping, their big heads and necks, long legs, and 
broad bodies and backs. 

The "Generals," as stated, receive a special diet 
before the contest, and are attended to with utmost 
care and great competence. Observations made for 
many centuries have developed a set of standard rules 
which are conscientiously followed. The trainers, for 
instance, are aware of the fact that extremes of tem- 
perature are injurious to the crickets. When they ob- 
serve that the insects droop their tiny mustaches, they 
know that they are too warm, and endeavor to main- 
tain for them an even temperature and exclude all 
draughts from them. Smoke is supposed to be detri- 
mental to their health, and the rooms in which they are 
kept must be perfectly free from it. The experts also 
have a thorough understanding of their diseases, and 
have prescriptions at hand for their treatment and 
cure. If the crickets are sick from overeating, they 
are fed on a kind of red insect. If sickness arises from 
cold, they get mosquitoes; if from heat, shoots of the 
green pea are given them. A kind of butterfly known 
as "bamboo butterfly" is administered for difficulty in 
breathing. In a word, they are cared for like pet babies. 



The Summer Habitation* of the Inaect«. 

The one in the lower left oontaina two clay beda in which the cricketa aleep. 

Another clay bed in the centre. 

Treatment of Fighting Crickets and Cricket-fights 19 

The tournaments take place in an open space, on 
a public square, or in a special house termed Autumn 
Amusements. There are heavy-weight, middle and light- 
weight champions. The wranglers are always matched 
on equal terms according to size, weight, and color, and 
are carefully weighed on a pair of wee scales at the 
opening of each contest. A silk cover is spread over a 
table on which are placed the pottery jars containing 
the warring crickets. The jar is the arena in which 
the prize fight is staged. A specimen with two crickets 
in the act of fighting is shown in the exhibition case. 
As a rule, the two adversaries facing each other will 
first endeavor to flee, but the thick walls of the bowl 
or jar are set up as an invincible barrier to this at- 
tempt at desertion. Now the referee who is called 
"Army Commander" or "Director of the Battle" inter- 
cedes, announcing the contestants and reciting the his- 
tory of their past performances, and spurs the two 
parties on to combat. For this purpose he avails him- 
self of the tickler described above, and first stirs their 
heads and the ends of their tails, finally their large hind 
legs. The two opponents thus excited stretch out their 
antennae which the Chinese not inaptly designate 
"tweezers," and jump at each other's heads. The an- 
tennae or tentacles are their chief weapons. One of the 
belligerents will soon lose one of its horns, while the 
other may retort by tearing off one of the enemy's legs. 
The two combatants become more and more exasper- 
ated and fight each other mercilessly. The struggle 
usually ends in the death of one of them, and it occurs 
not infrequently that the more agile or stronger one 
pounces with its whole weight upon the body of its 
opponent, severing its head completely. 

Cricket-fights in China have developed into a veri- 
table passion. Bets are concluded, and large sums are 
wagered on the prospective champions. The stakes are 
in some cases very large, and at single matches held in 

20 Field Museum op Natural History 

Canton are said to have sometimes aggregated $100,- 
000. It happens quite frequently that too ardent ama- 
teurs are completely ruined in the game. Gambling is 
forbidden by law in China as elsewhere, but such laws 
are usually winked at, and the official theory in this case 
is that the stakes consist of presents of sweet cakes. 
Choice champions fetch prices up to $100, the value of a 
good horse in China, and owners of famous crickets 
travel long distances to meet their competitors and con- 
gregate with them in order to match their champions. 
Some amateurs delight in raising them by the hundreds 
in the hope to produce the champion of the champions 
of the season, who is honored with the attribute of 
Grand Marshal. These men are by no means low-brows, 
but highly cultured men and those in responsible gov- 
ernment positions are found in this class. 

Two localities near Canton, Fa-ti and Cha-pi, not 
far from Whampoa, enjoy a special reputation for 
cricket-fighting. At these places extensive mat sheds 
are erected and divided into several compartments. In 
each section a contest goes on, the pot which forms the 
arena being placed on a table. In order to acquaint 
prospective betters with the merits of the crickets 
matched against each other, a placard is posted on the 
sides of the building, setting forth the various stakes 
previously won by each cricket. Great excitement is 
manifested at these matches, and considerable sums of 
money change hands. The sum of money staked on the 
contest is lodged with a committee who retain ten per 
cent to cover expenses and hand over the balance to the 
owner of the winning cricket. The lucky winner is also 
presented with a roast pig, a piece of silk, and a gilded 
ornament resembling a bouquet of flowers. This decora- 
tion is deposited by him either on the ancestral altar of 
his house to inform his ancestors of his good luck and 
to thank them for their protection, or on a shrine in 
honor of Kwan-ti, a deified hero, who is the personifi- 

Cricket Champions 21 

cation of all manly virtues and a model of gentlemanly 

The names of the victorious champions are in- 
scribed on an ivory tablet carved in the shape of a 
gourd (Plate VIII, centre), and these tablets like diplo- 
mas are religiously kept in the houses of the fortunate 
owners. Sometimes the characters of the inscription 
are laid out in gold. The victory is occasion for great 
rejoicing and jollification. Music is performed, gongs 
are clanged, flags displayed, flowers scattered, and the 
tablet of victory is triumphantly marched in front, the 
jubilant victor struts in the procession of his overjoyed 
compatriots, carrying his victorious cricket home. The 
sunshine of his glory falls on the whole community in 
which he lives, and his village will gain as much pub- 
licity and notoriety as an American town which has 
produced a golf or baseball champion. 

In southern China, a cricket which has won many 
victories is honored with the title "conquering or vic- 
torious cricket" (shou lip) ; on its death it is placed in 
a small silver coffin, and is solemnly buried. The owner 
of the champion believes that the honorable interment 
will bring him good luck and that excellent fighting 
crickets will be found in the following year in the 
neighborhood of the place where his favorite cricket 
lies buried. 

All these ideas emanate from the belief that able 
cricket champions are incarnations of great warriors 
and heroes of the past from whom they have inherited 
a soul imbued with prowess and fighting qualities. 
Dickens says, "For all the Cricket Tribe are potent 
Spirits, even though the people who hold converse with 
them do not know it (which is frequently the case)." 

A proverbial saying with reference to a man who 
failed or has been defeated is, "A defeated cricket, — 
he gives up his mouth," which means as much as 
"throwing up the sponge." 

22 Field Museum of Natural History 

The following Chinese stories may give an insight 
into the cricket rage. 

Kia Se-tao, a minister of state and general who 
lived in the thirteenth century, and who wrote, as men- 
tioned, an authoritative treatise on the subject, is one 
of the cricket fanciers famous in history. He was com- 
pletely obsessed with an all-absorbing passion for the 
cricket cult. The story goes that one day, during a war 
of the Mongols against the imperial house of Sung, an 
important city fell into the hands of the foe. When 
Kia Se-tao received news of the disaster, he was found 
kneeling in the grass of a lawn and taking part in a 
cricket match. "In this manner you look out for the 
interests of the nation !" he was reprimanded. He was 
not in the least disturbed, however, and kept his atten- 
tion concentrated on the game. 

An anecdote of tragical character is told with 
reference to an official of Peking, who held the post of 
director of the rice-granaries of the capital. He once 
found a cricket of choice quality and exceptional value. 
In order to secure this treasure, he exchanged his best 
horse for it and resolved to present this fine specimen 
to the emperor. He placed it cautiously in a box and 
took it home. During his absence his prjdng wife craved 
to see the insect which had been bought so dearly. She 
opened the box, and fate ordained that the cricket made 
its escape. A rooster happened to be around and swal- 
lowed the cricket. The poor woman, frightened by the 
consequences of her act, strangled herself with a rope. 
At his return the husband learned of the double loss 
he had suffered and, seized by despair, committed sui- 
cide. The Chinese narrator of the story concludes, "Who 
would have imagined that the graceful singer of the 
fields might provoke a tragedy like this?" 

The "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio" 
written by P*u Sung-ling in 1679 (translated into Eng- 



In the centre an ivory tablet in §hape of a rourd on which the names of the 

victorioua championa are inscribed. 

Cricket Stories 23 

lish by H. A. Giles) contain the following story of a 
Fighting Cricket (No. 64) :— 

"During the period Siian-te (1426-36) of the Ming 
dynasty, cricket-fighting was very much in vogue at 
court (levies of crickets being exacted from the people 
as a tax. On one occasion, the magistrate of Hua-yin, 
wishing to befriend the Governor, presented him with 
a cricket which, on being set to fight, displayed very 
remarkable powers; so much so that the Governor 
commanded the magistrate to supply him regularly 
with these insects. The latter, in his turn, ordered the 
beadles of his district to provide him with crickets ; and 
then it became a practice for people who had nothing 
else to do to catch and rear them for this purpose. 
Thus the price of crickets rose very high ; and when the 
beadle's runners came to exact even a single one, it was 
enough to ruin several families. In the said village there 
lived a man named Cheng, a student who had often 
failed for his bachelor's degree; and, being a stupid 
sort of fellow, his name was sent in for the post of 
beadle. He did all he could to get out of it, but without 
success ; and by the end of the year his small patrimony 
was gone. Just then came a call for crickets. Cheng 
was in despair, but, encouraged by his wife, went out 
hunting for the insects. At first he was unsuccessful, 
but by means of a map supplied by a fortune-teller he 
at last discovered a magnificent specimen, strong and 
handsome, with a fine tail, green neck, and golden 
wings ; and, putting it in a basket, he returned home 
in high glee to receive the congratulations of his family. 
He would not have taken anything for this cricket, 
and proceeded to feed it up carefully in a bowl. Its 
belly was the color of a crab's, its back that of a sweet 
chestnut; and Cheng tended it most lovingly, waiting 
for the time when the magistrate should call upon him 
for a cricket. 

24 Field Museum op Natural History 

"Meanwhile, Cheng's nine year old son, while his 
father was out, opened the bowl. The cricket escaped 
instantaneously. The boy grabbed it, seized one of its 
legs which broke off, and the little creature soon died. 
Cheng's wife turned deadly pale when her son, with 
tears in his eyes, told her what had happened. The 
boy ran away, crying bitterly. Soon after Cheng came 
home, and when he heard his wife's story, he felt as 
if he had been turned to ice. He went in search of his 
son whose body he discovered at the bottom of a well. 
The parents' anger thus changed into grief, but when 
they prepared to bury the boy, they found that he was 
still breathing. Toward the middle of the night he came 
to, but his reason had fled. 

"His father caught sight of the empty bowl in 
which he had kept the cricket, and at daybreak he sud- 
denly heard the chirping of a cricket outside the house- 
door. Jumping up hurriedly, there was his lost insect ; 
but, on trying to catch it, away it hopped directly. He 
chased it up and down, until finally it jumped into a 
corner of the wall ; and then, looking carefully about, 
he espied it once more, no longer the same in appear- 
ance, but small and of a dark red color. Cheng stood 
looking at it, without trying to catch such a worthless 
specimen, when all of a sudden the little creature 
hopped into his sleeve; and, on examining it more 
closely, he noticed that it really was a handsome insect, 
with well-formed head and neck, and forthwith took it 

"He was now anxious to try its prowess ; and it so 
happened that a young fellow of the village, who had a 
fine cricket which used to win every bout it fought, 
called on Cheng that very day. He laughed heartily at 
Cheng's champion, and producing his own, placed it 
side by side, to the great disadvantage of the former. 
Cheng's countenance fell, and he no longer wished to 
back his cricket. However, the young fellow urged hira, 




With moulded decorationi: gccnery. flruK*. and ornaments. The figure in the centra 

icpraaenta a carved walnut shell an enlargement of which ia shown in Tlate XI. 

Cricket Stories 25 

and he thought that there was no use in rearing a 
feeble insect, and that he had better sacrifice it for a 
laugh ; so they put them together in a bowl. The little 
cricket lay quite still like a piece of wood, at which 
the young fellow roared again, and louder than ever 
when it did not even move though tickled with a pig's 
bristle. By dint of tickling it was roused at last, and 
then it fell upon its adversary with such fury, that in 
a moment the young fellow's cricket would have been 
killed outright had not its master interfered and 
stopped the fight. The little cricket then stood up and 
chirped to Cheng as a sign of victory ; and Cheng, over- 
joyed, was just talking over the battle with the young 
fellow, when a cock caught sight of the insect and ran 
up to catch it. Cheng was alarmed, but the cock luckily 
missed its aim, and the cricket hopped away, its enemy 
pursuing at full speed. In the next moment Cheng saw 
his cricket seated on the cock's head, holding firmly on 
to its comb. He then placed it in a cage and sent it 
to the magistrate, who, seeing what a small one he had 
provided, was very angry indeed. The magistrate re- 
fused to believe the story of the cock, so Cheng set it 
to fight with other crickets all of whom it vanquished 
without exception. He then tried it with a cock, and 
as all turned out as Cheng had said, he gave him a 
present and sent the cricket on to the Governor. The 
latter forwarded it to the palace in a golden cage with 
some comments on its performances. 

"It was found that in the splendid collection of 
his majesty there was not one worthy of being matched 
with this one. It would dance in time to music and be- 
came a great favorite at court. The emperor in return 
bestowed magnificent gifts of horses and silks upon the 
Governor. The latter rewarded the magistrate, and the 
magistrate recompensated Cheng by excusing him from 
the duties of beadle and by instructing the Literary 
Chancellor to pass him for the first degree. A few 

26 Field Museum of Natural History 

months afterwards Cheng's son recovered his intellect 
and said that he had been a cricket and had proved him- 
self a very skilful fighter. The Governor also rewarded 
Cheng handsomely, and in a few years he was a rich 
man, with flocks, herds, houses and acres, quite one of 
the wealthiest of mankind." 

The interesting point of this story is that the boy's 
spirit, during his period of temporary mental aberra- 
tion, had entered into the body of the cricket which 
had allowed itself to be caught by his father. He ani- 
mated it to fight with such extraordinary vigor that he 
might amend the loss caused by his curiosity in letting 
the other cricket escape. 

Cricket-fights are not so cruel as cock and quail 
fights in which the Chinese also indulge, but the three 
combined are not so revolting as the bull-fights of Spain 
and Latin America. The Chinese reveal their senti- 
mental qualities in their fondness of the insect-musi- 
cians, in the loving care they bestow on their pets and 
in lavishing on them the most delicate and exquisite 
productions their miniature art is able to create. They 
know how to carve a walnut-shell with the figures of 
the eighteen Arhat and elaborate ornamental detail 
(Plates X and XI). A lens is required to appreciate 
this whole apparatus of intricate design. A walnut 
like this is suspended at the girdle, and a cricket is en- 
closed in it just for the purpose of enjoying its musical 
efforts. Surely people who go to all this trouble must 
have sentiments and a deep sense of the joy of life and 

As far as I know, the Chinese are the only nation 
that has developed cricket-fights. The Japanese, though 
fond of chirping insects which they keep as pets in 
little cages, do not use them for fighting purposes. 
Kipling writes in his Jungle-book, "The herd-children 
of India sleep and wake and sleep again, and weave 



I J 


Dccor*t«d with the fitnires of the EiRhtcen Arhat. ■ pavilion, trees, and the sun emersins 

from clouds. For keepinR sinRinir crickets and carried about in the girdle. 

China. K'ien-luns Period (1736-96). 


Chinese and Japanese Attitude Toward Crickets 27 

little baskets of dried grass and put grasshoppers in 
them ; or catch two praying-mantises and make them 
fight." This may be an occasional occurrence in India, 
but it has not developed into a sport or a national pas- 
time. In regard to Japan the reader may be referred 
to Lafcadio Hearn's essays "Insect-Musicians," inserted 
in his "Exotics and Retrospectives," and "Semi" 
[Cicada] in his "Shadowings." 

Field Museum owns a very extensive collection il- 
lustrating the Chinese cricket cult and consisting of 
numerous moulded gourds (many from the Palace and 
the possession of ancient families of Peking) , pottery 
jars, and all the paraphernalia (altogether about 240 
pieces). This collection was brought together by me 
on the Captain Marshall Field Expedition to China in 
1923. A careful selection of this material is placed 
on exhibit in a case on the West Gallery. 

B. Lauper. 




1, 2. 4. Trmpa for catchins insects, 1 and 4 of bamboo, 2 of ivory, 3, Gourd of cylindrical 

shape for keepinir female crickets to secure etrss. 6. Pair of nippers for taking 

feedinic-dishes out or in. 6. Brush for cleaning cricket-pots and 

smirds. 7. Wire frame under which crickets are hekl 

while their cages are being cleaned.